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Russian Jet Comes Within Feet of U.S. Spy Plane

WASHINGTON — An armed Russian fighter jet intercepted a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft over the Baltic Sea on Monday, three U.S. defense officials told NBC News.

The Russian aircraft flew within a few feet of the U.S. Air Force RC-135, the officials said, characterizing the interaction as both unsafe and unprofessional. The armed Russian aircraft was operating at a high rate of speed and the pilot had "poor control," according to the official.

Image: NATO OPERATION ALLIED FORCE
A USAF RC-135 aircraft is shown during NATO operations in 1999. GREG L. DAVIS / Associated Press

The U.S. spy plane was in international airspace when the Russian jet closed in for an intercept.

Also on Tuesday, a U.S.fighter jet shot down a Syrian-regime backed drone for the second time this month.

A U.S. F-15 took down the drone because it was "showing hostile intent" to coalition forces on the ground, according to a U.S. defense official. The Shahed 129 drone was flying in a pattern that would have taken it directly over where U.S. troops were operating at a combat outpost near the Syria-Jordan border to train coalition ground forces in the fight against ISIS, according to a Pentagon press release.

The drone was armed but it did not drop any munitions.

Officials called the drone's actions "unacceptable" and said the U.S. shot it down before it was too late to protect the troops on the ground.

"The Coalition will not allow pro-regime aircraft to threaten or approach in close proximity to Coalition and partnered forces," the U.S. military said in a statement.

The incident took place in the same area the U.S. shot down an Iranian-made drone earlier this month. A pro-Syrian regime drone dropped munitions in the area on June 8 before being shot down.

"The Coalition presence in Syria addresses the imminent threat ISIS in Syria poses globally," the Pentagon statement said. "The Coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend Coalition or partner forces from any threat."